From the Daily Press & Argus
Livingston County, MI – Sept. 14, 2003

By Buddy Moorehouse – Metro Editor

Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
You’ve probably never pondered the question before, but I want you to ask yourself: Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
OK, I guess that before you answer, it might help to know what, exactly, a bucket filler and a bucket dipper are. Fair enough.
This explanation comes from Merrill Lundgren, an amazing Brighton man who has been making his living the past few decades as a motivational speaker. Merrill came up with the bucket concept, and he uses it in his speeches.
As Merrill tells it, everyone walks around holding  “bucket” (not a real one; a figurative one). You’ve got a bucket, I’ve got a bucket, George W. Bush has a bucket, everyone has a bucket.
Your job in life is to have a full bucket, then you’re healthy and happy and always have a smile on your face.
The only way your bucket gets filled, though, is by other people.
They fill your bucket by giving you compliments, by doing nice things for you, by making you feel good about yourself, by making you smile. The people who do this are called bucket fillers.
Not only can other people fill your bucket though – they can also dip in and take things out. The dip things out by criticizing you, by hurting your feelings, by making you feel bad about yourself. The people who do this are called bucket dippers.
So let me ask you again: Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
Do you go through life filling up buckets? Do you compliment people? Do you do nice things for people? Do you say things that make people feel better about themselves?
Or are you a bucket dipper? Do you empty buckets by ripping into people? By thinking only about yourself? By making people feel bad about themselves?
Merrill’s bucket-filling and bucket-dipping concept is fairly simple, but it’s also fairly brilliant. It’s a wonderful illustrative way of making us think about the way we treat other people.
As I said, Merrill has been using the buckets in his speeches for years. He’s used it for business groups, church groups, service clubs, you name it. And he’s always gotten a great response.
What happened recently, though – and the reason I am writing about this today – is that Merrill hit upon something great with his buckets.
He got a call earlier this year from Howell’s Three Fires Middle School. The school asked if Merrill would be willing to speak with the kids as part of career day.
“At first I didn’t want to do it,” Merrill said. “I’d never done one of these speeches for kids before, and I certainly didn’t think they’d want to hear what it’s like to be a motivational speaker.”
After thinking about it for a while, though, a light bulb went off in his head.
“I called them back and said I’d do it, but they had to title my presentation, “How to be the Most Popular Kid in School.” he said. “I figured that would get their attention.”
Well, it did. Merrill gave his first presentation at Three Fires – the first time he’d ever spoken to a youth group – and it was a hit. A huge hit. Bigger than he ever could have imagined.
The kids loved the bucket concept. “It got them thinking about how they treat each other and how they treat their family.” Merrill said.
He also told the kids that he wanted them to pick one member of their family – someone whose bucket could use some filling – and write down all the things they love about that person. Then that night, they had to go home and read their list to that person.
How many smiles and tears do you think there were around Howell that night?
“One boy wrote about his mother,” Merrill said. “It was the most touching thing you’ve ever seen. He wrote down about 30 things he loves about his mom.”
Now, if you have a middle-schooler in your house – if you’ve EVER had a middle-schooler in your house – you know that’s nothing short of remarkable that Merrill was able to do this. How many pre-teen boys do you know who would willingly sit down and spell out 30 things they love about mom?
After this experience, Merrill realized that youth groups might get some benefit out of his little talk.
“There’s such a push in the schools now to deal with bullying,” Merrill said. “This kind of thing might help. It might get them thinking about how they treat each other.”
So here’s the real reason I’m writing about this today.
Merrill wants to reach out to every youth group in Livingston County – every school group, every church group, every organization that serves kids. He wants to volunteer his services; to bring his “buckets” to your group.
And here’s another thing you should know: He won’t make a cent off this.
For every speech he gives in Livingston County, Merrill is donating all the proceeds to the Livingston United Way.
So if you’re a teacher, principal, Scoutmaster, pastor or the leader of any youth group, call the Livingston County United Way at (810) 494-3000 to find out more. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
And in the meantime, why don’t you take some time to fill somebody’s bucket?